Dec 282012

Houston Texans (12-3) at Indianapolis Colts (10-5)

The Texans need this win to lock up not only the #1 seed, but also a first round bye. If they lose, they’ll need Denver or New England to lose as double digit favorites or they’ll be the #3 seed. The Colts, meanwhile, are locked into the #5 seed, but the Texans are a huge divisional rival who beat the Colts two weeks ago and the Colts would love to play spoiler, knock them out of a first round bye, and pick up a big win and momentum going into the playoffs. They also have Head Coach Chuck Pagano returning from his leukemia treatment this week and they’d undoubtedly love to get a huge emotional home win with him returning. That being said, we might not get a whole game of starters from them.

For that reason, this line has actually moved 3 points from where it was last week, even though the Texans got blown out at home by the Vikings last Sunday. I don’t think that’s right. Playoff bound home dogs are 16-7 ATS during week 17 since 1989. This makes sense for two reasons. The first and most obvious is that they’re too good to be laying points at home before a playoff game. But the second reason is that most of those teams are probably resting starters and teams tend to underestimate playoff bound team’s backups. Playoffs teams tend to be deep and well coached.

Either way, I think that bodes well for the Colts this week, especially given all the intangible things the Colts have to play for, regardless of whether or not the starters do play the whole game. Chuck Pagano did tell the media that he plans to play his starters and play to win the game, saying that its “not in our makeup” to rest anyone, though I suppose he could still pull starters late if it’s a blowout either way, which would greatly decrease the backdoor cover possibility.

However, I don’t think we’re going to get a blowout either way. Certainly I’m not going to pick a Colts’ blowout, but the Texans really aren’t playing well enough to be laying this many points in Indianapolis. Seriously, look at their last 7 games: 13-6 win over the Jay Cutler-less Bears who proved to be not as good as their record, overtime games against Jacksonville and Detroit, a 24-10 win in Tennessee, a blowout loss in New England, a 12 point win over the Colts (more on that later), and a 23-6 home loss to the Vikings.

They really haven’t played good football since they lost Brian Cushing, including a “closer than it should have been” win in New York against the Jets and a home blowout loss against the Packers. They are 12-3, but they rank 8th in the NFL in net points per drive and because of a fairly weak schedule in the AFC South, they’re even worse than that in DVOA, ranking 10th, including 13th in weighted DVOA, which puts greater weight on more recent games.

Back to that Colts game 2 weeks ago, they did win by 12, but that was in Houston and it was closer than the final score. I’ve called the Colts overrated before and I stand by that, but I think Houston is equally overrated for the same reasons, lots of blowout losses and a weak schedule. After all, even though the Bears, Jets, and Patriots all beat the Colts by more than 20 on the road, the Texans beat them by just 12 and now they have to go to Indianapolis, where they Colts have been a lot better than on the road. They are 6-1 there, including their only win over a definite playoff team, the Packers.

It’s rare that this happens (which is why I call the Colts overrated), but we’re actually get line value with the Colts this week because of how overrated the Texans are too. The Colts actually rank 23rd in net points per drive, but if you take the difference between the Colts’ and the Texans’, multiply by 11 (the average amount of drives per team per game) and add 2.5 points to the Colts’ side for home field, you get that the Texans should be -5.5. It’s a significant play on the Colts.

Public lean: Indianapolis (60% range)

Houston Texans 23 Indianapolis Colts 20

Pick against spread: Indianapolis +7 (-110) 3 units

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